When two tech giants like Google and Oracle go head-to-head in the biggest court in the land, not only does everyone pay attention, but they also want to weigh in. Google LLC v. America Inc. has drawn many attentive eyes since being taken up by the Supreme Court. The action is in relation to a copyright infringement claim by Oracle.
Oracle alleges that Google copied part of its code. Google argues that this constituted “fair use” because it only ‘borrowed’ enough code to effectively use the open-source Java language, and that it had added enough of its own material to transform the code into a new mobile platform that didn’t compete with anything that Oracle offered.
It’s always a big deal when companies this big are pitted against each other regarding novel issues in the law. Cases like these being taken up by the Supreme Court have the potential to change the industry’s law quite a bit and that has people interested. A good way for interested parties to make sure their voices are heard in a case they’re not a part of is to file an “Amicus Brief”
An amicus brief or “brief amicus curiae,” is a brief filed by a so-called “friend of the court.” The briefs offer relevant additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider. Amicus briefs are usually filed by non-litigants who have a strong interest in the subject matter.
Earlier this year 26 amicus briefs were filed at the Supreme Court in support of Google in this action. The briefs came from many different sources, including from tech rivals like Microsoft. Copyright and Antitrust experts, software developers, technology companies, and even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also filed briefs in support of Google.
Google’s “amici” argue that a decision against Google would “upend decades of settled expectations across the computer industry and chill continued innovation in the field.” Microsoft itself urges that the high court rule that Google’s use of Oracle’s code was allowed under copyright law’s fair use doctrine. They warn that the contrary ruling would imperil the “seamless interoperability” that users have come to expect.
Google’s support did not go unmatched, however. Oracle received its own wave of support with 32 amicus briefs filed in support of its position against Google. Oracle enjoys support from former lawmakers, major record labels, the Motion Picture Association, and the federal government itself.
The Motion Picture Association and the Recording Industry Association of America similarly argue that Google’s fair use argument goes too far and radically extends the doctrine. Another amicus brief points to the history of the copyright legislation itself and comes from none other than former Senator Orrin G. Hatch from Utah amongst others who worked on 1980’s copyright legislation dealing with software themselves.
This case is certainly one to watch and will continue to occupy a space in the headlines in the near future. With Oral Arguments in front of the Supreme Court scheduled on March 24, this case is expected to stay in the limelight. A ruling for this case will probably come by the end of this term.